(Catholic World News) The Vatican has announced the excommunication of four Ukrainian clerics who have sought recognition as leaders of the “Ukrainian Orthodox Greek-Catholic Church.”
In a March 29 announcement, the Vatican explained that the four priests, who have been expelled from the Basilian religious order, have caused grave divisions within the Eastern-rite Ukrainian Catholic Church, and resisted all efforts toward reconciliation. In 2008 the four—Fathers Elias Dohnal, Markian Hitiuk, Metodej Spirik, and Robert Oberhauser—claimed to have been ordained as bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, and proceeded to condemn the existing hierarchy of that Church as heretical. They are now seeking recognition from the Ukrainian government, claiming to be the legitimate representatives of the Ukrainian Church in communion with Rome.
The Vatican said that the Holy See “does not recognize the validity of their episcopal ordinations, or of any and all ordinations that have derived, or will derive therefrom.” The group has no right to use the term “Catholic,” the Vatican added. The statement cautioned the faithful against becoming involved with the clerics, who now identify themselves as the “Bishops of Pidhirci.”
The Vatican statement noted that excommunication of the four priests was pronounced in 2008, as the result of a sentence from the tribunal of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, which had found them guilty of “illegitimate usurpation of office, inciting sedition and hatred towards certain hierarchs, provoking subjects to disobedience, and harming a third party's good name by calumny.” The Ukrainian Catholic Church is by far the largest of the Eastern churches in communion with Rome.